January 9, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Long lines of traffic have crawled down the interstate this week. Today, we learned it will last twice as long as originally thought to get I-20 back to normal.
But the DOT says it's short term pain for long term gain.
If you drive I-20, chances are you've been stuck in traffic this week.
Pace cars are keeping it moving slowly starting at Exit 1 in South Carolina and going all the way to the Walton Way Extension overpass.
The pacing is helping DOT crews expand Walton Way Extension from Washington Road to the Augusta Exchange shopping center. The pace cars keep everyone safe while crews work to meet their deadline.
But get used to the sight of brake lights, because it's something you'll be seeing a lot of for the next week and a half.
The pacing caught Dick Gustovson, who was driving through from North Carolina.
"A 20 minute delay?" he said. "That's not so bad."
But not everyone behind the pace cars is that patient.
"It's painful!" said one driver.
But the slowdown is necessary for road crews. The DOT is widening Walton Way Extension, also known as Davis Road, from two to four lanes in most areas, and five across the interstate.
That means they have to tear down the old overpass and expand the part of the new one that's already there. In the long term, it means a quicker trip time. But in the short term...
DOT representative Scott Stephens says it's all about safety. Slowing the flow of traffic gives workers a chance to take down heavy beams from the old overpass.
"The pacing is to hold back traffic while we get everything hooked up and pull out everything safely without traffic in the area," he said.
He says this beats the alternative: shutting down i-20 altogether.
For Gustovson, slowing traffic during off-peak hours is the best compromise for everyone.
"I'll go get some gasoline and we'll wait," he laughed.
So far, the westbound lanes have been behind pace cars. Starting tomorrow it will be eastbound from Exit 190 to Warren Road.
Cars will also prevent you from getting on the ramps at those exits, but it's only for brief periods when the pace cars aren't letting anyone through.
Wednesday through Friday of next week, it's back to westbound.
People on Walton Way Extension can still cross the interstate. Traffic is on the part of the new overpass they've already built. They're tearing down the old one that's no longer in use.